“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
I love a thesaurus. That’s the book or program or application that’s similar to a dictionary and gives you synonyms, other words with similar meanings. When I’m writing I don’t want to keep repeating the same word or I want to use something nuanced, a word with a slightly different meaning. Sometimes it’s helpful just to see what other words are associated with the original word, and to see where thoughts lead us. Peace is one of those words.
We pray for peace in the first three petitions of the Divine Liturgy and the priest greets us with peace throughout. We’ve heard of peace. We want peace. We may at times have peace. We live in a world that could certainly benefit from more peace. How can we get and keep peace?
Peace is a concept that we may need some help in understanding. What other words are associated with peace?
Concord. Concord makes us think of living together in friendship, not in some sort of ceasefire or uneven power structure, but rather in true agreement. I think of the early Christians and how even pagans commented on the way they lived. Aren’t some relationships just more peaceful to us because we feel like we are equals and that our position is respected as much by others as they are by us?
Harmony. Harmony makes one think of music, a beautiful coming together for the pleasure of the singers and of all who hear it. Have you ever heard someone sing natural harmony in church? It’s not often but some folks can blend their voice with the cantor’s voice, not planned, not in competition, not a cacophony, but a true communion. On an ad for Meals on Wheels, Harvey Lauer says: “Music is the bridge between the material and the spiritual.” That makes you think that perhaps peace somehow requires the mix of the divine with the earthly to get it and keep it.
Reconciliation. Even after turmoil or disagreement people can come together in peace. It may even be the one big generic definition of peace that first comes to mind. After a war, a fight, or an argument, true peace is possible. Of course, we also think of the other type of reconciliation, because the sacramental Mystery of Penance can bring true peace. Yes, some folks are actually at peace, with God, with others, with themselves, after Confession. Sometimes the thesaurus will give us an antonym, the opposite of the original word. This is another way to look at peace - the absence of war, of turmoil, of chaos, of upheaval. Most of us don’t have to live with the threat of war as many did throughout history and as some do still today in parts of the world. Our nation may be officially at peace, but perhaps we still don’t experience peace on a personal level.
Perhaps in some way we live with the opposite of peace in our family or in a friendship, at our work or in our neighborhood. Perhaps we live with some inner turmoil, chaos, or upheaval. Perhaps we need to identify the source of what keeps peace from us and us from peace. Perhaps truly we need reconciliation, with God in the sacrament, with another person in our life, or within our own head and heart. The Great Fast is a great time to think about peace and to try it.
The author is a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.